At the end of last year and early this year, many fishermen and private vessel owners in Croatia were unpleasantly surprised to receive notices informing them that their vessels have been removed from the state Vessel Register. Reportedly there are tens of thousands of vessels that have been affected by this decision, as their owners have allegedly failed to pay the necessary fees for the past two years, reports Glas Istre/Marcello Rosanda.
However, most affected owners claim to have not received any bills or notices regarding the said fees in the first place, raising the question as to what actually happened and who is responsible for the outcome.
While some boats were removed from the register for justifiable reasons, most were not, the main reason for the latter being the unpaid fees for the use of maritime property and for the prevention of sea pollution. Many bizarre cases followed, such as in Pula, where some boat owners claim to have paid all the required fees and had their vessels removed from the register regardless.
‘The most bizarre thing about this case is that people didn’t receive the bills at all, nor any notices. It makes it seem as if the port authorities had deliberately dragged this out until the situation led to a mass removal of vessels. Instead of sending warning notices or starting enforcement proceedings, they immediately removed people’s vessels from the register. To make matters worse, some of them are now unable to re-register their vessels because, according to certain regulations, their boats are considered too old. The Republic of Croatia encourages fishermen, it wants to help this sector through the means of an operational programme for maritime affairs and fishing. There are efforts to improve the fishing flora and energy efficiency, to introduce new products and protect traditional fishing, which makes one wonder why the port authorities, i.e. the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, would counter these positive efforts for such a banal reason’, said biologist Neven Iveša for Glas Istre.
Iveša has a PhD from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb and teaches at the Faculty of Natural Sciences in Pula. As one of the vessel owners affected by the removal from the register, he recently filed an appeal at the Administrative Court in Rijeka.
Article 6 of the Ordinance on Compensation Fees for Navigation Safety stipulates that the fees in question are to be paid according to the invoice issued by the Ministry within the period specified in the invoice. The vast majority of boat owners have reportedly never received such a bill, meaning there was no basis to make a decision to remove their vessels from the register.